Original musical ‘Acts’ to premiere this week at John Legend Theater

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Bringing an original rock musical based on a book of the Bible to the stage has taken the patience of Job — the good man whose faith was tested by God through several severe trials — for Richard Carey. In the end, Job’s faith was rewarded, and the audience will determine it for Carey beginning Thursday.

“Acts,” a fresh look at the acts of Jesus’s Apostles in a tale of redemption and second chances with 22 original songs will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the John Legend Theater. The show is presented by Springfield Civic Theatre, and tickets are available.

For 30 years, Carey, a probate court judge who also writes and performs music, has written several songs inspired by the book of Acts, performing many of them at local shows. When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, it left time for him to coalesce them into a musical forming the story of “Acts.”

“It occurred to me that this musical expresses the full gamut of human emotions: joy, fear, hope, remorse, gratitude, anger, excitement and frustration,” Carey said. “To that end, it looks at the Acts of the Apostles through our shared human condition. And with that, I think it will afford the audience a more personal connection to these historical figures who have always seemed bigger than life.”

With that in place, the real work began. Carey juggled his day job, helped bring the Springfield Jazz and Blues Festival to life and prepared “Acts” for presentation. He turned to Springfield Civic Theatre and began looking for a cast and behind-the-scenes talent to realize the vision.

Carey will act as music director and turned to his brother Dan to direct the show, Laurie Smith and Kristina Hall as choreographers and Troy Berry as artistic director. A live band will be on the stage for the performances. There were some rewrites and added dialogue, including adapting songs for female cast members.

“It’s been quite an amazing transformation giving up the writing and performances with the band and hearing others sing. It brings it to life, joyful and special,” said Carey.

Then came the Job moments, or bumps in the road, as Carey calls them. Choreographer Smith blew out a knee and one of the Apostle actors broke a leg, not in the good luck sense commonly used in the theater. In another case, a band member’s trumpet broke, a rare circumstance, but Dan Carey managed to find another.

Although they haven’t had any screaming matches, the Carey Brothers have had a few coin flips moments when they’ve disagreed. Each has his forte — Dan having done a lot of theater and Richard in music that balances things out.

Carey discovered one of his leads on a different stage, that of the Springfield Jazz and Blues Festival where Annette Turner performed. Although her musical theater experience was limited to high school and one Summer Arts Festival production nearly a decade ago, taking on Mary Magdalene took some convincing.

“I asked how can I fit this into my busy life, and I can’t always remember lines, but it challenged me to memorize, and I’ve been practicing in my car,” said Turner, who works at Springfield Oakwood Village. “I’m super honored and humbled to have been chosen.”

Besides learning lines and songs, Turner has also realized the story has made her think a lot and change, as her character did, and how flawed people can be transformed as well as helping her deal with her a personal loss.

She and her brother, who is also in the cast, lost their mom earlier this year and this has aided their healing. Meeting new people has been a bonus, and she thinks this could also work for the audience.

“I believe this can change people’s lives as your doubts are addressed in this. It’s beautifully written but with a modern feel with every type of music — hip hop, country, rock,” Turner said.

Carey is pleased with the buzz “Acts” is generating in the community, and it will be professionally recorded. Whether this is a one-and-done or becomes a new “Jesus Christ Superstar” will mean more patience.

“I kind of want to see how it goes. This is going to be a high-octane story of redemption and second chances, something completely different for Springfield,” he said.


What: “Acts”

Where: The John Legend Theater, 700 S. Limestone St., Springfield

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Admission: adults $20, seniors, students and veterans $14

More info: www.springfieldcivictheatre.org/

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